Welcome to the latest series from everyone’s favorite, Brace The Hammer. Over 20 writers ranked 32 youth players (21 and under) for West Ham United. We ranked them by assigning each player a max of 20 points, down to 1. The top 15 averages made our list.
Every day, leading up to the start of the season, we will be bringing to you our top fifteen youth academy prospects for West Ham United. Up next, little Ryan Giggs.
It’s not very often you hear that kind of praise heaped onto a youngster by Terry Westley. Normally, you hear the same platitudes such as, “he had a great game” or “the lad is in form”. However, to hear Westley compare Nathan Holland to Ryan Giggs certainly sets the bar very high. Holland doesn’t mind the high expectations as he went out that same day and put on a masterclass showing in a 2-0 defeat of Fulham’s U23s.
Nathan joined us from Everton’s academy system, one that he was a part of since the age of 9. He played on scholarship for many years until receiving his first professional contract at the age of 16 from Merseyside. Less than a year later, Holland was recruited heavily by West Ham United’s Terry Westley and David Sullivan. He compared Nathan to both Nathan Redmond and Demarai Gray.
“I have worked with Nathan Redmond and Demarai Gray and they used to run with the ball, stop and change direction before going again.
“This boy is different to those two and there are not many like that now, who can carry the ball quickly and go past people.”
Terry first encountered the lad at an under 16 England match a few years back. It was there where he was first impressed with Nathan’s speed and ability for his age.
“I was at an England Under-16 match along with Dave Hunt, our head of Academy Recruitment. Reece Oxford was in the team and they were playing Turkey.
“England had this winger, a skinny, scrawny, under-developed young lad but after 15 minutes I got my pen and put a line under his name.
“I said to Dave: ‘This kid is going to be some player. Where’s he from?’ Well, he was at Everton then, he’d been there all his career. To cut a long story short, a month ago I got a call from Dave. He said: ‘Can you remember the name Nathan Holland?’
Nobody is sure how much longer Nathan Holland can stay just an academy player. In West Ham United’s recent friendly against Fulham and Altona 93, Nathan Holland certainly forced Slaven Bilic to take notice. Between Terry Westley’s unrelenting praise and Holland’s inability to show fear on the first team, we might be seeing the lad more often throughout the season.
Prior to West Ham’s preseason travels, many fans and scouts were looking forward to seeing the likes of Josh Cullen, Declan Rice, and Reece Burke - however it was Nathan Holland that left a last memory. It’s a funny business ranking youth prospects. Our team here made our lists before many of the preseason friendlies. I wonder how high Nathan Holland would have soared if we resubmitted our rankings today.
Holland joined West Ham’s U23 with a wealth of academy knowledge under Everton, as well as a plethora of experience playing for England. Having done so since the age of 15, Nathan is no stranger to the big stage, which translates well when on the pitch with first team Hammers. Nathan was also an integral part of the Premier League 2 side’s promotion last season scoring four goals and one assist. Given more time with the squad, we all expect those numbers to steadily rise.
Nathan Holland, like many on this list ahead of him, has the potential to be one of West Ham’s best players in the next 3-4 years. There’s no reason why not if he continues to impress as he’s done. Take a look at Edimilson Fernandes, only 21, already making appearances every other match for West Ham. The opportunity will come for the young winger, it’s just a matter of seizing those chance, but thus far, he’s capitalized wonderfully.